Unconventional subject areas, rounds of mental workouts, and an abundance of alpacas. I found my second home at the World Scholar’s Cup (WSC).
WSC is a team competition in debate, collaborative writing and two knowledge-based challenges. WSC does not follow a typical high school curriculum. Scholars from around the world surf the internet, magazines, books and newspapers to absorb all the information they can in six arenas - history, literature, social studies, special areas, sciences, and arts and literature - in preparation for every WSC competition season. Each subject links to the annually-released theme, and scholars are given guiding questions to kickstart our research.
As the next season of WSC approaches, I reflected on my experience with WSC for the past 3 years—as a contender the first two years and a coach/mentor the latest year—and I'm hit with a pang of nostalgia and feels.
I remember our third debate round in the WSC regional camp 2014 when we introduced Daniel to flappy bird. I remember the first blue furry alpaca I hugged anxiously as the senior division closing ceremony unfolded on the stage of the Singapore global round 2014. I remember walking through the streets of Yale University and stopping by with my new friends for some warm crepes to thaw our freezing hands. I remember the Scholar's Cultural fair during the Kuala Lumpur global round 2015. I remember really inspirational opening ceremony speeches, the lit Scholar's balls, the spontaneous Burch concerts.
I love WSC because it inspires me to learn for fun. They don’t give me a restriction on what I have to learn or what I cannot learn. They never tell me that anything is beyond my intellectual capabilities. Through the literature topic, I met Albert Camus, whose works became my inspiration in the years to follow. WSC sparked my interest in Sigmund Freud, the philosophical aspect of game theory and the history of espionage. They encouraged me to explore Frida Kahlo, Egon Schiele and Jeff Koons, even when I had minimal interest in art.
My takeaways from each WSC round go beyond trophies and medals.
It's the exhilaration of knowing my team chose the right answer during the Scholar's Bowl. It's feeling the adrenaline flowing through the black ink dancing on the lined paper writing a poem in response to the history prompt in the collaborative writing. It's the fire burning in my heart as O delivered one of the most emotionally-invested opposition speeches during my third debate round.
Beyond feeding my intellectual appetite, WSC also gave me a community of scholars. With Jerry the Alpaca as their mascot, WSC reminds us that the joy of learning doesn’t lie exclusively in the learning itself, but it’s also about the friends we share the journey with. The race to achieving the trophies and medals is not nearly as intense as the enthusiasm of people wanting to meet new friends. I’ve made countless new friends through WSC, many of whom I remain close with today.
WSC’s “alpaca scholar community” was, and continues to be, the fertiliser of my tree of knowledge. I understand better what it truly means to be a scholar—appreciating the learning process, discovering knowledge beyond your current interests, and having a big heart to embrace others’ success.
So this one is dedicated to the WSC team: to Daniel Berdichevsky, Burch Wang, Jeremy Chumley, Hiba Mahmood, Sara Syed, and Nathan Levin (who unfortunately is no longer with the team). Thank you. Thank you so much for hosting this never-ending celebration of learning, for the experience of a lifetime.
And as a happy alpaca says, Pwaaa on.